Thembi Mpungose-Niklas is an Entertainment Law professional currently employed as Head for Licensing and Brand Strategy at Warner Music Group managing a division that licenses music rights, specialising in brand and non-recorded income strategy, all across Sub-Saharan Africa with a specific focus on South Africa, Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria.
Q & A with Thembi:
Tell us a bit about yourself and what your job entails on a daily basis.
I am a legal professional who is now a music exec at Warner Music Africa. I am very passionate about the law in the creative arts space. I am the all-around Aspirant Rich Aunty of Lagos and Accra. An Oprah Winfrey groupie of note.
My job is intellectual property rights related, be it sound recording rights, image and depiction, rights. The other part of my job includes strategic brand partnerships. A high-level summary would be that the divisions I run can be seen as label support divisions because all income derived from there is non-recorded income and allows artists to diversify their income streams.
How did your journey in the industry begin?
I joined Universal Music Africa in April 2017 from legal practice to work in the legal division and then I pushed my bosses to start a music licensing division in addition to my legal role. I believe it was a first, that a major label in South Africa and possibly the rest of Africa had such a division.
I headed and ran that division from nothing, and I am proud to say that I started a formidable and strong business unit for UMG and as a result starting NRI divisions is becoming my niche. I am now at Warner; with some experience, this time and I hope to do even better.
What projects are you currently working on?
A few I can’t explicitly talk about because of the competitive nature of the business and NDA’s but I can say one is a mutual bank, a telco, a brewery and a film distribution company in West Africa are among a few of the ones I am working on. THEN two passion projects that we are speaking to a streaming service about. Watch the space.
What are some of your career highlights?
I’ve had an amazing 5 years in this industry, so I have a lot but working on Black Panther, the movie for the music early in my career, having the largest music synchronisation numbers in the country dare I say Africa, starting and heading a division, UMG (the world’s biggest entertainment company) and lastly working as in house legal in Nigeria. Working closely with Temi Adeniji who I admire a lot.
Being cherry-picked by Warner to come join them was also affirming for me and a validation of the work I had done in the past 4 years.
What and who inspires you?
At a spiritual level, it’s that I was conceived in the mind of God before I even was. Personally, starting, even when scared but starting and seeing that payoff is in many ways the story of my life and when I get fearful, I remember who I am and what I am made of. I am a self-starter and that inspires me. My family and friends are also a source of inspiration. I get to live around some amazing people.
What do you think FAME Week Africa can offer the Pan-African Market?
A platform for collaboration and shine a spotlight on the real business of the arts, the Behind the Scenes people that we all never think about.
How do you think we can grow the creative industry and bring African content to the world?
First by being proud and original. Owning who we are because we are majestic and it’s definitely something for the world to marvel at.
What tips can you give an artist who wants to build a reputation and a career that is going to keep them relevant in the industry?
READ YOUR CONTRACTS, MAKE IT YOUR BUSINESS TO UNDERSTAND THE BUSINESS. BE YOU!
What is your favourite thing about Africa?
It is dynamic. Africa feels to me like THE SOURCE. It is the beginning and the end in many ways. Africa is colourful and that is what I love about it – that as Africans we all have a piece of it inside of us.
Read more FAME Behind the Scene here